Reddit is the Front Page of the Internet and it Does Not Look Good

In a recent valuation round, Reddit, the Internet’s most popular and most controversial message board, managed to raise a whopping $1.8 Million in funding. Steve Huffman, Reddit’s co-founder hopes to use the money in redesigning the interface of Reddit and making it up to par with current standards. So far, so good. As exciting as this may sound, Reddit is in for a tough challenge especially since the company has been facing tumultuous times in terms of user issues and leadership mishaps. Another major concern is the company’s lack of profitability; despite having 234 million unique visitors and 8 billion pageviews a month (which are phenomenal numbers), the company has failed to mention any profitability. The platform’s unique traffic numbers give rise to several questions – what is Reddit? How has it become the Internet’s most powerful platforms? And yet why has it not been profitable? Here’s our detailed insight into the company that calls itself, ‘the front page of the Internet.’

What is Reddit and How it All Began

Reddit is commonly known as a social bookmarking site in the language of Internet marketing. This essentially means it’s a place where you submit links to your blogs and try to get people to read your stuff or start a conversation about it. In essence though, Reddit is pretty much a social media platform where people flock together to share the good and the bad. It’s like a message board, or a forum where you talk about everything under the sky. Every topic is a subreddit that is represented as /r/topicname and consists of its dedicated group of users. Every entry sent is voted (upvoted/downvoted) and the more comments or votes your links get, the more the chances of them appearing on the front page of Reddit.

Reddit is the brainchild of Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian who developed the platform in 2005 to serve as a bulletin board system. The name is a play on words for the phrase, ‘read it,’ and since the founders thought of the platform more like a library of information, hence the term Reddit. In a blog post with Fast Magazine Alexis details his journey of Reddit and how it all started from just $500 of sticker marketing.

We won’t be going into the historical background of the company (there’s always Wiki for that), but it suffices to say that while the website worked perfectly well, the company itself faced numerous problems of management and leadership. The initial founders and early staffers no longer managed the company and it was left to a new management team who joined just because they loved Reddit. Unfortunately though, the new leadership wasn’t able to tackle issues with the platform and by 2015, the original founder Steve Huffman returned to save the day. Since then, Huffman has been trying to bring in changes and create stability and sustainability.

How Does Reddit Work?

For a newbie who has not experienced an Internet bulletin board before and is used to a visually pleasant Facebook or Twitter, Reddit can be an intimidating experience. The interface is nerdy at best, the subreddit formats look like some kind of code and the audience is not very friendly. These are all the initial experiences Reddit newbies shared when we asked them about Reddit. The mere process of joining the network and forming a community is challenging. That being said, once you get the hang of it, Reddit can turn into your go-to place for any source of information needed.

The signing up process is easy. Choose a username, enter your email address and start using.

Choose your preferred topics and be part of the discussions. Study the community guidelines carefully especially if you’re using the platform just to get blog traffic. Don’t just post links and vanish. Ask questions, communicate, engage and develop your own network. Use the Reddit plugins and extensions to directly share links to your community. Reddit also has a very popular AMA (Ask Me Anything) section where celebrities and popular icons such as Obama, Trump, Clinton and several others were online for people to post them questions and get responses.

Reddit’s Major Challenges

On the surface, Reddit may look like it’s a great community or an entertaining bulletin board (or a cool linking strategy) but in reality, it is a platform that has been rumored to get out of hand. It’s important to understand that Reddit is largely driven by users and most of the time those users could be brutal. If users choose to blackout a subreddit or launch a protest, they could essentially shut down Reddit and there’s nothing that the founders can do. In fact, Steve Huffman reportedly came under fire for ineffectively handling negative posts by pro-Trump supporters which clearly indicates that founders have no way of controlling posts on the channel. Similarly, there are other serious topics that are not only controversial but also contribute to political turmoil (the recent video of President Trump wrestling CNN). This means that harassment, humiliation, threats etc on Reddit goes undetected and unreported, which explains why people hardly have their original names or identity on the platform.

Unlike Facebook, where there are thousands of moderators and algorithms in place to moderate and divert information, Reddit is entirely at the mercy of its users. Of course, there are moderators, but most of them are voluntary moderators who are not paid for the job and so the quality of moderation and content control is lacking. Over the years, Reddit has been plagued with controversy after controversy all because it lacked content control. From rapists discussing their stories to bigots inciting hate, from leaking nude celebrity photos to posting sexually offensive material, Reddit could be a dangerous playground for newbies. With the recent valuation win, the founders are keen to resolve content problems and to ensure that the channel is able to maintain its traffic while still being able to curb insensitive information.

How You Can Use Reddit Safely

Here are a few tips to ensure you have a safe experience on Reddit.

  1. Avoid controversial topics: As enticing as it may seem, avoid going there. You don’t want to mess up your mind reading lengthy threads promoting hate and bigotry.

  2. Avoid passing comments on controversial matters: Follow rule 1.

  3. Don’t give trolls what they want: Trolling on Reddit is at a whole different level. Unless you want to lose your sanity, don’t give in to them.

  4. Use it for its intended purpose: It’s a news bulletin, an entertaining platform and, a community of like-minded people. Find your tribe and have fun there.

  5. Give help where needed: Use the site positively. Help people if you hold expertise or experience in any given area.

Reddit is the shrine of the internet but it is also a reflection of the reality of human nature. Given the opportunity to be anonymous, how many of us are willing to exhibit our hatred, our prejudicial opinions and our desire to hurt those we disagree with. Unfortunately, if Reddit comments and subreddit tags are to be taken seriously, then quite a lot of us. In the long run, Reddit can only become a successful community if its leadership takes harassment by the horns and safeguards the interests of people who want to use the channel for its intended purpose of information and knowledge share. The front page of the Internet should not be portraying an ugly picture.

Farah tries to keep up with the fast-paced tech world by writing about it. She covers latest tech news and writes informative pieces to help her readers make informed decisions about their tech preferences.